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Student Teacher


The Six Stages of a Teaching Career

The following is a summary of Heick (2018). The six stages of a teaching career described below are a humorous yet realistic portrayal of the stages teachers experience as their teaching journey unfolds.

The life cycle of a teacher is identified as follows:


  • Begins before stepping into the classroom, as early as acceptance of a contract, and ends in the first 10 seconds of your first class
  • Period of intense growth and high enthusiasm; can be tiring
  • Most “fun” stage
  • High uncertainty, vague sense of possibility, a lot of pride
  • Conversations revolve around your choice to become a teacher, views and opinions on assessment, rewarding “aha!” moments


  • Settling in period; quick changes
  • Every bit of theory is morphing into applied theory and practice
  • Reptilian brain responses: fight or flight
  • Training and theory and enthusiasm sustain you
  • Characterized not so much by the chaos of teaching but by your response to the chaos
  • Teaching during this stage is not miserable, but can be stressful and exhausting


  • All about informed precise and effective experimentation with past knowledge and experience
  • You bring in new tools and instructional strategies with something more than hope; the best teachers never stop doing this
  • Less time wasted as you are evolving your craft
  • Experimentation leads to expanded professional learning networks in discovering new tools, ideas and mentoring from peers
  • Also a “fun” stage


  • You possess a better understanding of people, teaching, culture, communities, technology—you have grown as a human being
  • You also notice the negative impact of politics or personal agendas on peers and students
  • Money wasted on technology that is inappropriate for the situation
  • Impersonal professional development
  • You have unanswered questions—many unanswered questions
  • Tough psychological circumstances
  • Teaching feels unfulfilling, confusing or even wrong for the idealistic and macro-thinkers


  • Characterized by change
  • Great teachers don’t do what they are told
  • You agitate, you ask questions
  • You create light and model the same for students; the foundation of critical pedagogy
  • There is no conclusion: constant interaction with changing circumstances and new knowledge that allows for a broader vision, which allows for new evidence—process starts over again
  • Critical thinking core is raw emotion and tone—first cause for change
  • Critical-thinking conditions the mind to suspect the form and function of everything it sees—including your classroom and everything being taught in it
  • Teaching can be more “fun” once again
  • You are strangely empowered to not make a mess but to make a difference (but if you do make a mess, you know how not to get fired)

Ongoing Mastery

  • Ah, wisdom!
  • The work to master your craft involves 10,000 hours to become an expert—not in teaching, but in change
  • Teaching is not about you—never was
  • You see everything from above and through everything, which helps you to embrace, evade, plan, design, question and celebrate
  • Connect and work some more
  • Very fulfilling stage, allowing you to change the world one mind at a time
  • Not just about perseverance and showing up but also about luck—meeting the right mentor, principal, professional learning network, school, district, years of good health
  • All matter every bit as much as your knowledge of pedagogy and your personal convictions
  • If you make it this far, congratulations! Education is going to need you!